‘Memories of the Future’. The Nottingham Writers’ Studio ‘Words of the Future’.
This is the second interview of ‘Memories of the Future’. This time with Pippa Hennessy, development director of the Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
The Writers’ Studio is putting on a weekend set of workshops entitled ‘Words of the Future’ to tie in with both the digital and analogue elements of ‘Memories of the Future’. We want to make people think about where books have come from and where they are going.
There’s an opportunity for people to work with a real printing press and print their own work.
Nick Birchall’s printing press workshop is going to be amazing. He actually brings printing presses along with him and will help people set up type, make images and print their own cards, poems, whatever they want to do. We’ve been wanting to get him in for ages, so we’re really excited about what he can bring to the analogue side of ‘Memories of the Future’.
It’s going right back to the first days of printing when you set your letters up in a setting stick one by one, transfer them to the form and print them one sheet at a time.
Yes, because at the other end to Nick Birchall’s printing press you’re making e-books.
Yes, I’m running a session on how to make e-books and looking even beyond this, Adrian Reynolds will give a talk about digital opportunities for writers. He’s involved in several projects at the moment, which involve writing beyond the strictly book forms. There’s one project which he’s running which is about a bunch of kids who live on Mars and there are quite a few stories in that. In fact it’s more a package than a book. So for example, as well as writing film animation he’s creating social media profiles for these characters and they’ll have conversations online. It’s about stretching the idea of a book as far as it can possibly go, which is absolutely fascinating.
Would you say that writers who aren’t aware of what’s going on in other media are missing out interesting opportunities to explore their craft?
Yes. Unless you are incredibly famous or so brilliant that you have no trouble getting people to buy your books and you have your publisher doing it all for you, you really need to know what’s going on in the world of the internet, not least for social media. There are all sorts of ways you can promote your writing through social media, but there are loads of opportunities making money through writing using the internet and getting projects off the ground. One of the things Adrian has done recently has get a Kickstarter project off the ground – White Lily – which will produce a short film that he’s writing at the moment. He raised the money he needed for that through the internet, so that’s an opportunity for writers we cannot afford to ignore these days.
The electronic medium is important. Your e-book workshops have proved very popular, even with published authors wanting to publish their out of print books. How accessible is this to someone who was writing a book and wanted to publish it themselves through the e-book medium?
The most exciting thing about e-books is that you can get your book to your audience without any expenditure at all. There’s free software available to make an e-book. The process is remarkably easy because if you can work Microsoft Word or any word processing package, you can work the software needed to create an e-book. Although you need to think a little bit about how you’re going to turn a Word document into an e-book, the whole process is very fast once you get used to it. Because the only cost is your time, then the only issue you have is getting people to know about your e-book so they can buy it.
What I will be doing in the workshop is concentrating on how you transform your Word document into an e-book and it’s a very practical, hands-on session. So anyone will be able to leave with the basics of how to create an e-book and begin to work from there.
It really is important to know how to go about creating an e-book properly, isn’t it? So many self-published e-books that are available for download have not been properly formatted and this can put a reader off, even if the book itself may be really well written. So a workshop like this can prevent this sort of thing happening.
Yes. It is in fact possible to take a Word document and upload it directly to various e-book sales platforms, but that always results in a badly formatted and inflexible e-book. It is not a joy for users to read, which is why I’m so evangelical about getting it right, by learning how to do it properly.
The Writers’ Studio is also running a workshop on book art, which is very analogue.
The idea is to start with paper, which can then be cut, folded or torn then stuck together to make really interesting little booklets, notebooks and provide different forms to inspire different ways of writing. You will be able to make blank notebooks, you can play with different types of paper and even fabric to turn scrap materials into interesting repositories for words. You will also be able to do things with them that you would not necessarily do with a printed book.
Book art has a long tradition that’s a cross between writing, or playing with words, and visual art of various forms. So you can get people who take old books and turn them into sculptures. You get people who write a book, make a book, paint a book in a way that’s not a traditional book form. Aly Stoneman is going to give us a taster of that for the afternoon. I’ve seen some of the work she produces and it’s amazing. She went on an Arvon course to make book art. She’s written poems about nature and intersperse it with paintings or leaves that you take from the trees you’re writing about. You could include digital media by printing things off on paper and stick them in to a handmade booklet, which is a nice combination of different technologies.
So these are the types of events that the Nottingham Writers’ Studio can put on? So the Writers’ Studio is about more than just getting a group of people together to sit down and write…
The Writers’ Studio is keen to develop writing in many different forms. Our core purpose is to support our members in socialising, sharing information and networking. It’s also about helping them to find support from other places, for example if a writer wants to find the best way of publishing their work, we can help them and put them in touch with agents. But we want to be bigger than that, because we want to get the word out about the joy of writing and the things writing can do and the things you can do with writing and connect with people.
Take for example the Dovetail project I’m running at the moment, which is an EU-funded project where we’re working with people who don’t have confidence in written communication, and we’re using creative writing to help increase their powers of communication through writing, as well as their overall confidence. So this is a really good example of the type of thing the Writers’ Studio can facilitate.
Membership of the Writers’ Studio is not limited to established writers, or long-standing professionals in the writing industry. For example, one of our new members is Lisa Shipman, who is rapidly gaining a reputation for someone who can run excellent creative writing workshops for schoolchildren even though she has only just graduated from the University of Nottingham’s Creative and Professional Writing degree programme. And a fellow member is Nicola Valentine, who is an established novelist and course leader for that degree programme!
We are an organisation that supports committed writers and literature professionals at all levels, and we encourage all sorts of different approaches to writing to fit together to make something new and exciting.